Mike Larson hadn’t heard of LaVar Ball until two weeks ago, but a Twitter link to an article about the controversial father of now-ex-UCLA basketball star Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo fascinated him.
The father of 24-year-old NASCAR standout Kyle Larson now reads any story he can find about the former NFL practice squad player. Mike Larson has seen “Little League parents” during his years supporting his son’s eventual career through go-karting, sprint car racing, and eventually stock cars. He’s seen parents live vicariously, destructively, through the exploits of their children. A low-key former power company employee from Northern California, Mike Larson said he couldn’t bring himself to criticize Kyle when he was developing a love for racing as a kid.
“I wanted him to do well, but if he didn’t, I wasn’t going to yell at him,” Mike Larson told USA TODAY Sports Sunday at Auto Club Speedway before his son won the Monster Energy Cup NASCAR Series race. “I never wanted him to get to the point of saying, ‘I don’t want to do this because my dad is driving me nuts.’”
Mike Larson, therefore, winces at LaVar Ball’s escapades, such as comparing Lonzo — who will enter the NBA draft — favorably to Michael Jordan in his prime or eliciting the rage of LeBron James by invoking his children in conversations about parenting a young athlete.
“I was watching this video with (Ball) and I was thinking, ‘This guy is over the top’,” Larson said. “Kyle would get mad at me, and I would understand. If I was (Ball’s) kids, I would be, like, ‘Shut up. You’re putting so much pressure on us inadvertently.’ I think Dad thinks that he’s taking pressure off those kids by it being directed at him, and I think he’s wrong.”
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LiAngelo Ball has committed to play at UCLA also while LaMelo is a sophomore in high school. An NBA fan that admittedly doesn’t pay much attention to the college game until later in the NCAA Tournament, Mike Larson initially noticed the family when LaMelo scored 92 points for Chino Hills (Calif.) on Feb. 7. Upon learning of the father, Larson began clicking through links as UCLA advanced through the NCAA tourney and LaVar Ball’s notoriety rose.
“I think it’s making it worse on them because all three of those are NBA players,” Mike Larson said. “It’s kind of like DeMarcus Cousins (formerly of) the (Sacramento) Kings,” Larson said. “The Kings were never going to get the value out of him (before trading him to New Orleans in February) because so many teams, they don’t want to touch him. He’s got so much baggage and everything. So I think it’s the same thing with their dad.”
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